I know I’ve only been blogging about relatively light topics these days — maybe it’s because my non-blogging time has had enough “heft” that the blogging has been a break.
Well, today’s post is no exception! I was sent an article today by JL (who received it from JB) concerning the origins and persistent endurance of the QWERTY keyboard and the public’s lack of acceptance of the much better Dvorak keyboard, and I thought I would pass it along. (For those who have never heard of the QWERTY keyboard, look down: it is very likely the keyboard arrangement under your nose as you read this on your computer or laptop, named after the first 6 letters on the top row of keys.)
I thought it was an interesting article. I’ve been fascinated by the keyboard layout of our common QWERTY keyboards for some time, and I’ve known about the Dvorak arrangement of keys, too. However, there was still much that I learned in the article. For instance, the distant origins of our keyboards as a once alphabetical arrangement is revealed in the second row of keys, where we see these keys in order: DFGHJKL, with E almost between D & E in the row above, and I almost (but not as “almost”) between G & H in the row above.
For those who don’t know why the keys on our keyboards are laid out as they are, it may be a very interesting read. For those who don’t know why they continue to be laid out that way when there is a much better way, it may be a frustrating read. I’m not sure how passionate you are about your keyboards. 🙂
It did cause me to wonder, though: Will they every modify the keyboard layout for “thumb typers” on iPhones, Blackberries, etc.? Not like the numerical pad arrangement (ABC on 2, etc.) which is just a convenience for fitting letters onto fewer keys. I mean, if such thought went into arranging the keys so specifically for two hands and ten fingers, how would a keyboard be best arranged for pure thumb-based typing?
(I do not include the iPad in this, which seems designed to prevent comfortable typing based on the one I have played with. I have never felt as much lack of desire to type anything as I did with that uncomfortably big iPhone in my hands, but that’s a tale for another day…)
For those who’d like to learn a little historical nugget and wonder why our keyboard layout is designed the way it is — with such purposeful inefficiency — and why efforts to improve it never catch on, this is the article for you: From the April 1997 issue of Discover Magazine, “The Curse of QWERTY” — subtitled, “O typewriter? Quit your torture!” (bonus points if you see what’s special about the letters in that subtitle, by the way…).